As we inch ever closer to the first game of the regular season (and thus the end of Spring Training), various extensions for talented youngsters around the league continue to trickle out.
Just this week, for one example, the Chicago White Sox extended their 23-year old shortstop, Tim Anderson, to a six year deal worth as much as $51 million. And now today, we have two more to discuss.
While neither deal is officially official, multiple outlets are reporting that the Texas Rangers are close to an extension with 23-year-old second baseman Rougned Odor, while the Cleveland Indians are also close on a deal with their 24-year-old third baseman, Jose Ramirez.
As always, given the number of young, talented, and presently-unextended Chicago Cubs youngsters (especially in the infield), these cases will always be good to look at. So let’s check out the details.
According to MLB Trade Rumors, Odor’s deal with the Rangers is thought to be six years in length and worth $49.5 million in guaranteed money (a potential option year can up the contract to seven years and more dollars, but those details aren’t yet out).
Given Odor’s two+ years of service time on the books, assuming the deal starts with 2017, this extension buys out his final year as a pre-arbitration player, three years of arbitration, and at least two years of free agency. So, in that respect, it’s a pretty standard deal. Odor (who hasn’t earned too much money yet in his career), gets life-changing money guaranteed, in exchange for up to three years of free agency down the road. The Rangers get some cost certainty and three years of free agency for under market value. As far as his performance goes, Odor did crack 33 home runs last season, but had an on-base percentage under .300 and was a negative on defense. Overall, he was worth just 2.0 WAR.
Most of the Cubs youngsters, for comparison’s sake, are at least one year behind Odor in terms of service time (Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, and Javy Baez) and have arguably proven themselves more reliable on the field. Still, this is a pretty useful data point for many of the Cubs’ core.
Similarly, Jose Ramirez is reportedly close to a four-year deal with the Cleveland Indians that is expected to be worth $26 million. Two team option years (worth $11 million and $13 million, respectively) would bring the total deal up to six years and $50 million – hopefully you can see how these deals very clearly set the market for other players.
In 2016, Ramirez broke out in a very big way. He slashed .312/.363/.462 while playing most of his time at third base. He only hit 11 home runs, but he struck out just 10.0% of the time, and he added value in the field. Overall, his 4.8 WAR season was a big part of the Indians deep postseason run.
While Ramirez is a year older than Odor, they both were entering their final season as a pre-arb player. The deal kicks in for 2018 for Ramirez, though, so it buys out his three arbitration years, and a year of free agency – then up to two more years in free agency for under market value via the options (well, probably). Like Odor, Ramirez hasn’t made a lot of money yet in his career, making him the perfect candidate to lock down life-changing money in exchange for a couple of chances at free agency.
It may not work out for them overall (i.e. both possibly could’ve made a bit more by rolling the dice), but when you haven’t earned that much yet and someone dangles those sort of numbers in front of you, it’s obviously hard to say no. And it’s not as if we haven’t seen many of these deals prove prescient for the player.
In a lot of ways (almost similar service time, talent, age, positions, etc.) these deals are good benchmarks for the Cubs, but there are obviously many differences. Among the biggest differences I see are the earnings made by the players up to this point, which can impact a player’s willingness to wait for arbitration and free agency, rather than inking a deal now. Many of the Cubs you’d consider extending were first-round draft picks who’ve already earned multiple millions in their careers. In addition, guys like Kris Bryant (and probably Addison Russell) are in a very clear tier (or two) above the players who’ve extended recently. So, while there’s definitely something to be learned here, I wouldn’t say you could – for example – ink Russell to the same deal right now (because that would be a no-brainer).
That doesn’t mean this isn’t worth it though. The more of these deals that come out, the more data points we have to study. And given that none of them have really re-set the market at a markedly changed rate, I say this all good news for the Cubs. Stay tuned.